30 Movies You Didn't Know Were Comics

Origins of the secret comic book films.

Men in Black (1997)

The Movie: Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones’ hit pairing as two agents for the titular organisation that polices alien visitors to Earth and keeps their presence a hidden from the general populace.

The film’s mixture of action and comedy spun out into two sequels, both continuing under Addams Family director Barry Sonnenfeld.

Based On: Lowell Cunningham’s Aircel Comics title began as a three-issue miniseries. The property was transferred first to Malibu Comics and then Marvel following a string of buyouts.

Faithful To The Source Material? The film and comic differ significantly in tone, Sonnenfeld introducing light-hearted humour to the originally brutal and sinister organisation. The Men in Black’s remit was also narrowed from general paranormal phenomena (including demons, monsters and the undead) to solely extraterrestrials.

Old Boy (2003)

The Movie: The second instalment in director Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy is a brilliant if often excruciating experience, with a mix of both psychological and physical horror. For those who haven’t seen it yet, the less said, the better.

Spike Lee’s American remake of the movie will arrive later in 2013 with Josh Brolin in the lead role.

Based On: Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi’s manga series ran from 1996 to 1998, with its English language adaptation scooping an Eisner Award.

Faithful To The Source Material? Unusually, the more shocking elements of the film were actually absent from the original manga. While sharing the same premise, the comic serves as a mystery thriller with significantly less death and violence than the Old Boy movie.

Wanted (2008)

The Movie: Sometime action movie stars Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy united in this tale of a downtrodden man living a humdrum life until he learns that he has inherited a place in a brotherhood of elite assassins. The movie offered some bombastic set pieces and over-the-top but engaging ideas.

Based On: Mark Millar and JG Jones’ 2003 Top Cow miniseries was essentially a story about what would happen if DC Comics villains (thinly disguised in the pages of the comic) banded together and conquered the world once and for all.

Faithful To The Source Material? From a similar root the two diverged significantly, with the film taking a more conventional action hero direction with a story that bore almost no resemblance to Millar’s original.

Timecop (1994)

The Movie: Considered one of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s better cinematic efforts, the time travel tale also remains his greatest box office success. Facing off against Ron Silver’s corrupt presidential candidate, the action movie was not short of confusing plot twists (and some gaping holes).

Based On: Mark Verheiden and Ron Randall’s ‘Time Cop: A Man Out of Time’ story ran in the first three issues of the Dark Horse Comics anthology, and would later return for a two-issue movie tie-in miniseries. Verheiden also served as a co-writer on the film itself.

Faithful To The Source Material? While the concept remained the same the originally comic story focused not on political corruption but a time travelling diamond heist that wreaks havoc on the future.

Surrogates (2009)

The Movie: The intriguing concept of a world in which the majority of the human race interact with the world through remotely piloted robotic duplicates made for a lacklustre movie with Bruce Willis as the FBI agent star.

Based On: Top Shelf Productions published Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele’s 2005 miniseries and its 2009 follow-up.

Faithful To The Source Material? The film has actually been credited with adding more depth and characterisation to the story than the comic on which it is based.

RED (2010)

The Movie: Bruce Willis is retired CIA black ops agent Frank Moses, who breaks up his peaceful days by flirting with the woman who handles his pension payments (Mary-Louise Parker). But when he finds himself the target of a hit, Frank must come out of retirement to save his own life.

Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich make a for a great supporting cast of fellow over-the-hill agents, but it's Helen Mirren’s assassin Victoria who really steals the show.

Based On: Warren Ellis and Cullen Bunn’s short and stylish miniseries for DC Comics’ now defunct WildStorm imprint centred around a retired CIA agent with a past too horrible to mention out loud.

Faithful To The Source Material? Apart from sharing the same basic premise, the film and comic were very different affairs. The movie added an extended cast and a strong comedy element lacking in the original.

Oblivion (2013)

The Movie: Tom Cruise stars as a drone repairman stationed on an Earth that has been brought to the brink of destruction by an alien invasion. The beautiful but slow-paced setting is shaken up when Olga Kurylenko’s Julia arrives and stirs repressed memories in Cruise’s Harper.

Based On: Director Jospeh Kosinski’s Radical Comics graphic novel from which he developed the movie remains unpublished.

Faithful To The Source Material? Impossible to say, although Radical have said that they plan to release the original book in 2014.

The Losers (2010)

The Movie: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Idris Elba, Chris Evans, Columbus Short and Óscar Jaenada star as a five-man special ops team out to clear their names after their superior Max (Jason Patric) betrays them.

When Zoe Saldana’s Aisha offers them a chance at redemption, chaos follows in a film that may be short on brains but delivers on fast-paced action.

Based On: Long-time comics collaborators Andy Diggle and Jock’s Vertigo series, which was itself loosely inspired by an older DC Comics war property of the same name.

Faithful To The Source Material? While superficially the same, the film did abandon the simple sophistication of the comic for a more brash and silly plot about sound-based weapons called ‘snukes’.

Virus (1999)

The Movie: The single directorial outing for SFX man John Bruno starred Jamie Lee Curtis, William Baldwin and Donald Sutherland as the crew of a ship that stumbles upon a damaged Russian vessel that has been taken over by an alien consciousness that transforms humans into cyborgs.

They may be a reason why Bruno never returned for a follow-up project.

Based On: The Chuck Pfarrer-written story, which he originally intended for a movie before selling it to Dark Horse Comics in 1992 after deciding that current special effects were not up to scratch.

Faithful To The Source Material? Largely faithful, although the Chinese ship was replaced with a Russian one.

Red Sonja (1985)

The Movie: Brigitte Nielsen (better known as the former Mrs Sylvester Stallone) teamed with Arnold Schwarzenegger for this sword and sorcery flick. Severely inferior to Schwarzenegger’s original Conan film, the actor and sometime politician has joked that it is the worst movie he has ever made.

The movie has been accused of vilifying homosexuality with its vengeful lesbian villain, played by another Conan alumni Sandahl Bergman.

Based On: The Marvel Comics character created by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith in 1973, loosely based on Conan creator Robert E Howard’s Red Sonya of Rogantino. The original Sonja has since been killed off and replaced by a successor and distant relative.

Faithful To The Source Material? The movie origin and general characterisation of Red Sonja stuck relatively closely to comic, although her later adventures differed.

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